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Winning Youth@Hockey

Bhubaneswar: After winning the confidence of women through women self help groups (WSHG) under Mission Shakti program and farmers with KALIA and BALARAM and several other pro-farmers programs it now focuses on the youths and new voters who will cast their votes for the first time in the ensuing Lok Sabha and Odisha Legislative Assembly elections scheduled to be held in 2024. Of the 3.29 crore voters in the state, the new voters (in the age group of 18-19 years) has been estimated at 5.23 lakh.

This year’s final electoral rolls, published recently, said that there were 9,50,789 new voters. And the new voters and youths are in focus of all parties and as usual, the Governing Biju Janata Dal (BJD) headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik leaves no stone unturned to bring these huge voters to the regional party’s fold.

And hosting an international event like Men’s Hockey World Cup, 2023, has offered a golden opportunity for Naveen Patnaik to attract the youths.

His Commander In Chief, the Secretary to CM VK Pandian, who connects to the youth is the prime mover of the Mega Show that endears youth, has taken the next level, beyond the imagination of others.

The state had last time in 2018, ahead of the 2019 general elections, held the Men’s Hockey World Cup and the result is known to all. The ruling party easily overcame the Modi wave and the BJD secured 112 assembly seats and 12 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats. Thanks to youths who also joined with women to ensure that Naveen’s party gets votes and forms government.

This time round, the 2023 event also came just before the next general elections and Naveen grabbed the opportunity giving little opportunity to rival BJP the potential political utility of such events.  Both football and hockey have all along been major points of attraction for youths in the rural constituencies like in Odisha.

The FIH Men’s Hockey World Cup has now come back to Odisha for the second consecutive time and expected not only to enthrall the youths, but ensure that their Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is really interested in the growth of sports. The lucrative rewards being given to players in the state is also another factor to attract youths. No state in the country is as liberal towards sports as Naveen is.

After tasting the benefits of holding an international sports event in the state in 2018, the BJD government has planned hosting the event in a massive way creating a wave in the nook and corner of the state.  The ongoing World Cup, for the first time, is being organized in two destinations — Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar and Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium, Rourkela. 

To involve youths, students, community and people at large, the State Government has toured the World Cup Trophy to almost all States of India. After that, the trophy travelled to all districts of Odisha. The trophy was welcomed in a massive way with a festive mode. Though the tournament has already started on January 13, the festive atmosphere has continued to grip the youths since fortnight ago. The trophy toured to several educational institutions during the tour to the district, which was able to attract the youths towards the event.

Following the trophy tour, the State has organized the opening ceremony of the World Cup in a very grand manner. Perhaps for the first time in its history, Odisha has organized such a mega show involving a galaxy of stars from the Bollywood and also the international-level Black Swan group.

The buzz created across the state before the opening ceremony, has attracted lakhs of youths towards the event and the World Cup. A lion share in the audience at the Barabati Stadium on January 11 evening were youths. The atmosphere was so electrifying that youths loved and enjoyed it a lot. The young audience has also felt proud for organization such an international standard cultural event in Odisha that too in historic Silver City. To ensure maximum involvement of youths, the State Government closed down all universities, colleges and technical education institutions in the afternoon for World Cup celebration.

The ceremony involved performances by actors Ranveer Singh, Disha Patani and music composer Pritam, who has also composed the World Cup anthem. A host of vocalists – including Benny Dayal, Neeti Mohan, Sreerama Chandra, Nakash Aziz, and Shalmali Kholgade – K-pop band Blackswan, which also features Sriya Lenka from Odisha, enthralled the audience, while there were performances from local stars of Odisha highlighting the State’s culture and heritage.

An incredible showcase of technology elevated the stadium to new heights with xylo bands glittering all across the audience and pulsing to the music, an awe-inspiring show that is sure to live on in youth’s hearts forever.

Thousands of people across the state witnessed the grand opening ceremony on television, LCD screens and smartphones. The Government has organised free live telecast of the event at all GP level, cities and wards of Cuttack city.

Apart from the mega inaugural ceremony, several cultural, sports and food festivals are being organized in five corporation towns of Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur and Berhampur. Besides, district-level festivals are also being organized in major towns across the State to celebrate the Hockey World Cup. All these festivals are also attracting the youths as they love to spend the evening in such events and they are charged.

In the Capital City Bhubaneswar, the entire city has been decked up and parallel events – including musical concerts, fan village and storytelling sessions – are being organized at the Kalinga Stadium and across the city.

Similarly, a project called STAMP (Street Art and Mural Project) with seven artists of national and international repute has been launched to create artwork at major junctions in Bhubaneswar.

For Rourkela, which comes under the Sundergarh district, known as the nursery of hockey in Odisha, this is the first brush with an international tournament of such level. The entire Rourkela town has been decked up with lights and beautification projects, which will last in the mind of the players forever.

A ‘Sports Carnival’ has been launched in Rourkela to create a sporting atmosphere in the city. Commercial flight operations have already begun from Rourkela to transport players and officials to the venue.

Several cultural and sporting events are lined up in five corporation cities of Odisha Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Sambalpur, Rourkela and Berhampur. The entire State will witness a festive moment during the entire month.

Both the parties – the BJD and BJP have also been fighting with each other and the saffron party alleged that Naveen was using hockey for political purposes. A senior BJD leader, however, said what is wrong in hoisting international sports events and involving youths in it? If the youths are attracted towards BJD, what is wrong in it? Above all, they are tilted towards some positive activities through sports instead of getting involved in any other divisive activities in the name of case, creed and religion.

Anyway, the next elections will prove whether the Hockey World Cup helped the BJD to garner support of youths or not.